«I’m very proud of my team»

– CEO Roger Büchel and his team have gone through a period of considerable upheaval: Zurich Convention Center has now been operating since July 2021, with 50 new employees joining on one single day. A variety of events immediately followed the official opening celebrations, so that’s reason enough to take a look back in a slightly unorthodox interview…

We asked Roger Büchel to comment on a few dates from the recent and somewhat more distant past. In addition to what’s generally known, there are some surprises here – and a brief look into the future.

1895

The original Tonhalle was opened: this grandiose edifice was modelled upon the Trocadéro in Paris, and took its name too. 40 years later, the exterior and interior were slightly too ostentatious for the local inhabitants’ taste, and this led to some regrettable consequences: the towers and the part of the building that faced the lake were removed, and the splendour of the Tonhalle was literally painted over, although it has fortunately now been possible to rectify this. At that time, General-Guisan-Quai was called Alpen-Quai because it offered – and still offers – a particularly beautiful view of the Alps.

1939

Zurich wanted a Convention Center, which was duly built to adjoin the Tonhalle – at the very place where the dome and towers of the Trocadéro had originally stood. The intention was that this Convention Center should also serve as an «event location» for the Swiss National Exhibition, so it was completed for the opening of what was known locally as the «Landi». Philipp Etter, who was Federal President at the time, delivered the opening speech, so the date when the «Landi» was opened is also the date on which the Convention Center was inaugurated.

The 1980s

What - from today’s perspective - would be condemned as yet more architectural outrages were committed in the 1980s: the Panoramasaal that was built on the terrace blocked the view of the lake, while a club that was integrated into the Convention Center lobby made the latter smaller and darker. To the great joy of audiences and the general public alike, these horrors were reversed when the Convention Center was renovated: it was once again friendlier, more open, and above all, more suited to requirements too.

20 September 2017

This was the day of the ground-breaking ceremony: Mayor Corine Mauch and Head of Construction André Odermatt removed the final valuable mirror from the Konzertfoyer. Once the renovation had been completed, these mirrors were returned to their home, having been digitized as video screens: this epitomizes the successful blend of old-world charm and the latest technology.

1 January 2019

My first official day at work – although I had already participated in some initial construction meetings in November and December 2018. On the following day, in my role as the first employee of the new Kongresshaus Zürich AG, I moved into a small temporary office in Zurich’s Enge district – and it was pretty lonely for the first few months!

August 2019

A small but very welcome development which boosted our morale: the launch of our new website. It still had very little content back then, but today it offers lots of up-to-date information about the Convention Center: you can actually find anything you need to know as an event organiser or visitor.

November 2020

Six months before construction was completed, the power station that uses water from the lake to heat and cool the Center and its surrounding buildings was the first element of building technology to be successfully operationalized. There was a very pragmatic reason for this, namely that the system should already be producing heat throughout the winter of 2020/21.

26 April 2021

The day on which the builders handed us the keys: this was a joyous, long dreamt-of moment in the sunshine and, as befitted the occasion, it was marked with a glass of bubbly on the terrace. The most recent progress in the building works had previously been discussed during a tour with the owners. From that moment on, responsibility for security, building technology and access lay with the Convention Center. Facility Management then moved in, and (amongst many other things) organized workspace for the rest of the team.

17 May 2021

This is the day on which we and the rest of the team (around 20 people at that point) moved from the ‘preopening office’ on Dreikönigstrasse to the splendid offices in the Convention Center itself – a real ‘moving-in day’ on which life was once again breathed into the building.

2 August 2021

We welcomed 50 new employees within the space of just one day – to discover more about that, we recommend reading the corresponding blog post.

12 August 2021

LUX Restaurant received its first guests: midday witnessed a press lunch for specialist media from the catering and gastronomy sector, and the restaurant and bar were then opened to everyone in the evening. This was a complete success, as was demonstrated by its reception in the press and on social media. Every time I look at it, I still think the view from the restaurant over the lake is magnificent.

2 September 2021

The grand opening night as the culmination of everything that had happened since 1 January 2019: the Tonhalle and Convention Center celebrated the official resumption of operations. Beyond the opening night, the building was open to the public throughout the weekend, with crowds being much bigger than anticipated. Covid-19 meant it had been necessary to postpone the dates for these open days, and the concept itself had been adapted because only 300 people were allowed in the building at the same time. There were audio stations offering information, and a red carpet led visitors through the building. In this way we were able to welcome around 6000 people.

«The parts of the jigsaw puzzle are all fitting together nicely, and that’s lovely to see.»

Roger Büchel, Director / Chief Executive Officer, Zurich Convention Center

28 September 2021

The eyes of Swiss cinema enthusiasts turned to Zurich: the long-awaited new Bond film celebrated its premiere in Switzerland’s largest movie theatre, the Kongresssaal having been reconfigured to accommodate over 1200 seats – and all of this just 15 minutes after its world premiere in London! This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our crew as well as our guests. The 16-metre-wide screen was perforated so the sound could permeate it and thus, when combined with the surround system in the hall, give you goose pimples.

Today

We’ve come through a stressful period, and I’m very proud of my team – and happy that many elements that were merely theoretical are now functioning in practice as planned: operations, processes, organization. The parts of the jigsaw puzzle are all fitting together nicely, and that’s lovely to see. Our task now is to undertake a little fine-tuning; the amazing feedback from our guests is our greatest reward.

In a year’s time

In a year’s time we’ll be a well-established team which continues to be enthusiastic about this awesome location, fabulous building, the events it hosts, and our guests. I’m sure it won’t be boring, and it’ll also be true in the future that each day will bring some new surprises - and of course that’s what makes it so exciting!

In 10 years’ time

In a nutshell, our vision states that we operate the most popular events venue in Switzerland, and that we’re a role model when it comes to providing services, employing staff, and promoting sustainable economic activity. That’s what we’ll have achieved in 10 years’ time – and we’ll already have set ourselves some new goals.

Go back

You might also be interested in

An eventful first year

ISO 9001: A certificate for our quality management – and to reward all our efforts too

A TV-like atmosphere for everyone

Fostering sustainable relationships

«Ultimately we all benefit»

Zurich will cast a spell on you

A rich and varied opening

LUX Restaurant & Bar: a treat for the senses

«Our employees are the real stars»